North Korea

Swedish firm denies selling North Korea snow cannons

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 5:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 05 January, 2014, 4:05pm

When North Korea's state media last week issued pictures of leader Kim Jong-un visiting a new ski field he ordered built, one firm in Sweden couldn't believe what it was seeing.

Its snow cannons were being used to coat the slopes of the Masik Pass Ski Resort in white - despite European Union sanctions meant to prevent impoverished North Korea getting its hands on luxury goods and equipment.

"I have no idea how they turned up in North Korea. We did not sell them directly to North Korea," the chief of the Areco company, Johan Erling, told the Dagens Nyheter newspaper.

Kim last Tuesday took a ride up a ski lift in the resort, a pet project he had built with "lightning speed" and which he claimed was "the centre of the world's attention", North Korean state media reported.

Pictures of the resort showed some of its reported 110 kilometres of ski runs, a hotel, heliport and cable cars - and, in some of them, Areco's snow cannons.

Erling said he had called Areco's reseller in China, who assured him "he hadn't sold snow cannons there".

The machines were therefore likely second-hand and difficult to trace, Erling concluded.

The North Korean resort made headlines in August when Switzerland blocked a US$7.6 million sale of ski lifts to Pyongyang, calling it a "propaganda project" for the regime.

But North Korea's leader has been undeterred in trying to portray his country as host of a string of "world-class" leisure parks.

In October, Kim opened a water-park complex with indoor and outdoor pools, slides and saunas. In September, he watched films at a new "4D" cinema in a renovated amusement park, where he also rode a roller coaster.